Hits & Misses From The 2009 American Summer
- Written by Matthew Toomey
It’s been a big month for me and this week’s blog is a little light on material. I’ve also been a bit under the weather and am looking forward to a few movie free days.
You might have noticed in the past month that some of the Birch, Carroll & Coyle cinemas have rebranded themselves. They are now known as Event Cinemas. According to their website, the reason for the change is that their cinemas are “being redeveloped and relaunched as state-of-the-art venues that offer customers a complete range of entertainment options.” They will be an “entertainment precinct that offers customers options on every level, including dining, bars and a variety of screening opportunities to not only see movies in 2D and 3D, but also live music, concerts, sporting matches and special events.”
It’s all yadda, yadda, yadda as far as I’m concerned. They are still the most over priced cinemas in Australia in terms of both ticket price and candy par prices. I’d like to hope that people don’t go along to a movie at these cinemas because of this branding. I know the reality is different but I can only hope.
My favourite cinema is still the Palace Centro at New Farm and I can tell you that it ticks off a lot of the boxes that these Event Cinemas promise. A lot of cinemas in Brisbane do for that matter. Just last week, I was visiting my old local – the AMC at Stafford City. It hasn’t changed much in the three years since I moved out of the area but it’s still a nice complex and there are plenty of places to get food (e.g. Fasta Pasta) when you’re done.
I do need to update my cinema reviews (on my website) and will hopefully get around to it before the year is out. Let me just say that regardless of name, these Event Cinemas still fail to deliver in terms of price relative to service.
It’s the first day of Spring and that’s good news as far as I’m concerned. The warmer weather is nice but what’s just as exciting are the better movies that we’ll see. The American summer blockbusters are behind us and we can focus on the upcoming award season.
Before shutting the book on this Australian winter, I thought I’d quickly point out which films have been the big success stories at the box office. There are about a dozen or so films which are hyped to the extreme. How many of them did you actually see though? How many were any good? What was your favourite?
As I’ve mentioned a few times previous, Star Trek was probably the surprise hit for me. Most of the other “big” films didn’t impress me. G.I. Joe was the worst of the lot. A few small horror films snuck under the radar though and got my thumbs up – Drag Me To Hell and Orphan.
Here’s a look at how the blockbusters have performed here in Australia (in order of box-office dollars – I’ve listed the number of weeks inside the top 20 also):
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen - $40.2m from 10 weeks
Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince - $39.6m from 7 weeks
Ice Age 3: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs - $29.6 from 8 weeks
The Hangover - $21.3m from 12 weeks
X-Men Origins: Wolverine - $18.5m from 8 weeks
Angels & Demons - $17.9m from 9 weeks
Night At The Museum 2 - $17.1m from 10 weeks
The Proposal - $16.5m from 9 weeks
Star Trek - $15.8m from 9 weeks
Terminator: Salvation - $14.8m from 6 weeks
Bruno - $13.9m from 5 weeks
The Ugly Truth - $10.6m from 4 weeks
Public Enemies - $8.6m from 5 weeks
G.I. Joe: Rise Of Cobra - $7.3m from 4 weeks
Land Of The Lost - $3.9m from 5 weeks
The two stand outs have been Transformers and Harry Potter 6. I wasn’t fussed about either of them for whatever reason, they’ve got people off their butts and into movie theatres. That’s a good thing… I think.
Ice Age 3 was the family film of the summer – well ahead of Night At The Museum 2. I thought both were worth a look.
The sleeper of the summer was The Hangover which spent 12 weeks inside the top 20 – more than any other film. That’s a good sign of word of mouth and the proposed sequel should be just as big.
The big losers were Bruno (which faded away quickly despite all the advertising), Terminator: Salvation (yet to find someone who liked it), Public Enemies (not a huge gross for Johnny Depp film), G.I. Joe (the less said the better) and Land Of The Lost (ditto).
The Toronto Film Festival kicks off next week (September 10) and as I say each year, it’s my favourite film festival… not that I’ve ever been. The reason is that so many quality Oscar contenders get their first showing at Toronto and it starts the buzz in the lead up to award season. Slumdog Millionaire won the audience award at Toronto last year and it went on to win 8 Academy Awards, including best picture. There are hundreds of films being screened and I’ll provide a wrap of the major prize winners in the near future.
Charlie & Boots: My Day As A Paparazzo
- Written by Matthew Toomey
Where Did All These Movies Come From?
I don’t know what’s going on at the moment but there are a lot of movies being released. Last Thursday, I noted that there were 6 new films being shown. I was wrong – the actual total was 9. I’d left off Adam, Spread and The Age Of Stupid. That’s the most in a single day since Boxing Day 2007 (which is always a big day for movies).
This week, there are another 6 films in release which will take the total for the month to 26. That’s almost a film per day and I have to admit that I’m struggling to keep up. September looks a little quieter thankfully with just 18 films coming out (or at least that I’m aware of).
Russian Film Festival
Who loves their Russian cinema? Who has even seen a Russian film? I can only think of four off the top of my head – Burnt By The Sun, The Return, Night Watch and Day Watch. I’m sure there’s more but I admit it’s not an area of cinema I’m very familiar with.
Well, the 2009 Russian Film Festival kicks off on Thursday, September 3 and runs for one week. It’s being held at the Palace Centro Cinemas in New Farm and 18 different films (some new, some old) will be shown.
The focus this year is on comedies and musicals – there’s a retrospective of the best Russian films in these genres over the last 70 years. I’d like to catch Hipsters, a colourful, youthful musical set in the 1950s.
You can find out more at the festival website - http://www.russianresurrection.com/2009/. Tickets are $16 for most sessions. Go get some culture!
Charlie & Boots Premiere
I had a fun opportunity on Sunday to become, what I have dubbed, “my day as a paparazzo”. There was a premiere at Conrad Jupiters on the Gold Coast of the new Australian comedy Charlie & Boots. It stars Paul Hogan and Shane Jacobson.
The film was the kick start to the 64th Australian International Movie Convention which now has a permanent home on the Gold Coast. All the major movie distributors are showcasing their new films with the hopes of getting them picked up by as many cinemas as possible. If you’ve ever been curious about these sort of events, you can view the agenda here - http://www.movieconvention.com.au/page/Agenda/.
This year’s convention includes screenings of Julie & Julia (the new Meryl Streep movie) and In The Loop (a great new political film which I’m buzzing about). I’d love to be there all week for the convention but sadly I have a day job to keep me preoccupied.
Anyway, back to the premiere. I was lucky enough to score a media spot on the red carpet and interview Gary Sweet and then stars Paul Hogan and Shane Jacobson as they came down the red carpet. Thanks to Ange (for letting me borrow her cool microphone) and to Sam (for taking the pictures of me in action). You can view some photos are hear my interviews here:
Having not done this before, I was a little apprehensive. Having been reviewing movies for 14 years, I thought I’d take the next step up and see what it was like.
And yes, I had a great time. I had to line up with the rest of the media beforehand to get my accreditation badge and guest list. I then had to stand on a piece of card on the ground marked “612 ABC Local Radio”. They lined up all the media people in a certain order to facilitate the action when they came down the carpet. I was stuck next to the Today Show who had the power to snag a lengthy interview on the carpet itself.
When it came to asking questions, I assure you that it’s not the easiest thing in the world. You don’t want to ask the same, boring questions that they’ve heard before. On the other hand, it’s hard to come up with anything original. The whole concept of red carpet arrivals is kind of cliché in itself. Stars walk down looking happy, people stand trying to get photos and autographs. I’m sure if Paul Hogan walked past people in the street, people wouldn’t stop and take photos. But when you sexy it up as a movie premiere, it’s a different story. I’m not trying to diminish the occasion but just pointing out that it’s just one of life’s odd things.
I’ll review the film in detail when it comes out on September 3 but I have to say that I liked it. I think the audience did too – plenty of laughs. The gala after party had nothing to do with my opinion either. I think. I did enjoy the free drink, seafood buckets, beef skewers, mud cake…
This has made me think how hard it is to put together a big premiere. There’s so much to organise – kind of like a wedding. You’ve got to get everything right for the arrivals and have everyone in place. You have the screening and then have to cater for hundreds of people afterwards – with music, food and drink. I don’t even want to imagine how big some of the Hollywood premieres can get. Maybe I’ll get to check one out sooner rather than later.
Storage: A Movie Premiere To Remember
- Written by Matthew Toomey
BIFF Audience Voting
BIFF is already well behind us but I thought I’d quickly go through the final audience top 10 from the festival voting:
1. Balibo – a worthy choice.
2. Blessed – a very moving Australian film out next month – good choice.
3. 500 Days Of Summer – loved this movie and it’s out next month too – another good choice.
4. Looking For Eric – I was only ho-hum about this one but it’s a crowd pleaser.
5. The Strength Water
7. Flowers Of The Sky
8. Moon – I wasn’t that impressed by this one either.
9. Dead Snow
10. Black Dynamite
We’ll do it all again in November 2010.
A Funny Premiere
I’ve seen a lot of funny things in movie theatres. I’m not just talking about what happens on the screen. I have a new tale to add to the collection…
Last Wednesday night, I had the chance to attend the premiere of the new locally made film called Storage. It screened at BIFF but I didn’t get a chance to catch it then due to a clash with 500 Days Of Summer.
At the screening I attended was the director (Michael Craft) and a number of the actors who appeared in the film – including the two leading stars – Damien Garvey and Matthew Scully.
Unfortunately for me, I was sitting two seats away from a drunken woman who talked through parts of the film (yelled is a better verb) and laughed at inappropriate places. I’d seen her before the movie and she looked rather jovial. I didn’t realise that she’d had a few too many drinks until we were in the theatre.
After spilling a glass of champagne on the floor about half way through the movie, she followed with one of the most stunning things I’ve seen. 70 minutes in, she threw up four times on the floor in front of her. I was in shock more than anything. I couldn’t take it anymore and walked out of the cinema, not seeing the end of the movie. I think others in the vicinity were leaving also but yeah, I didn’t hang around.
Some of you will be repulsed by this and yes, that is why I walked out. But I do try to see the funny side of any incident such as this. The irony is that of the hundreds of films that I see each year, Storage is one that will stick in the memory banks for a long while. It was a premiere to remember.
You can hear my thoughts on the incident by listening to a podcast of my 612 ABC radio show by clicking here - http://blogs.abc.net.au/queensland/2009/08/matthew-toomeys-movies-and-dvds.html?program=612_breakfast.
I could get into a debate on the merits of cinema etiquette and alcohol in movie theatres but I’ve done that before and I’m sure I’ll do it again at some other time. Right now, I’d rather you just be amused / horrified by this story.
As for the film itself, Storage gets a thumbs up from me. I only saw the first two-thirds but if the rest is anything to go by, it’s worth seeing. Like Subdivision which opens this week, it’s nice to see a Brissy film showing in our cinemas. It’s about a young guy who works for his uncle in one of those storage warehouses. As you can imagine, there are pretty shady people who store stuff in these places for a good reason. It’s a slick thriller/horror film and I think it looks great given the tiny budget on which it has been shot. Damien Garvey and newcomer Matthew Scully (never heard of him before but a face to watch) were great.
I’ve seen plenty of movies that made me want to throw up… but not this one. Check it out!
BIFF Wrap Up & An Exciting Balibo Q&A
- Written by Matthew Toomey
BIFF for 2009 has come to a close and I can finally take my foot off the pedal. I’ve seen 15 films in the last 11 days (most of them at BIFF) and with the Ekka holiday coming up on Wednesday, I’ll be able to catch up on some of the films in wider release.
I’ve often been slack with BIFF and missed a lot of films but this year I was enthusiastic. I tried to take advantage of the fact that this may be the last ever festival at the Regent. It was great to see so many people and it was nice to see the Regent Bar buzzing with live music.
Before I get to my BIFF wrap, I was very excited to get a last minute call up to host the Balibo question & answer session which followed the Palace Movie Club screening on Sunday afternoon. I was up on stage with Anthony LaPaglia (the main star), Damon Gameau (another of the film’s lead actors), Robert Connolly (the director) and Tony Maniaty (author of book on Balibo).
You can view a few photos from the Q&A by clicking here:
They were all a great bunch of guys and they were very happy with the audience’s response to the film. It was a really good Q&A with many audience members asking a question. We went on for about 40 minutes and I’m sure we could have gone on for much longer. The stories that the cast and crew shared with us were awesome.
It’s been a great year for Australian cinema and here’s another film to add to the list. It’s out this Thursday so make sure you check out Balibo.. and tell all your friends to see it too.
Speaking of Balibo, it cleaned up at the BIFF awards by winning two major prizes – the Fipresci Jury Award and the Interfaith Jury Award. I popped along to the presentations on Sunday afternoon and it was great to see Robert Connolly’s film being recognised.
I have to say that I also enjoy the special children’s juries at BIFF. Two separate juries (one for those between grade 8 and 10, and another for those between grade 11 and 12) see four nominated films and then select a winner. It was nice to hear them speaking at the presentation and justifying their decision. I hope this is a trend which continues at many BIFFs to come.
As for my own BIFF winners, there were seven films which I really liked – An Education, 500 Days Of Summer, Coraline, Unmade Beds, Blessed, Eden Is West and Balibo. Don’t ask me to pick a favourite out of those. The good news is that with the exception of Unmade Beds, all will be released in Australia in the next few months. Coraline is out already.
Of the rest, I’d give a mild thumbs up to Looking For Eric and Subdivision.
Films I didn’t hate, but didn’t really like were The September Issue, Everyone Else, Moon and Prime Mover.
To quickly run through a few films that I didn’t mention in last week’s blog…
The Subdivision premiere was great on Thursday night with so many of the cast and crew in attendance. Ash Bradnam spoke well before the screening and I give the guy credit for his determination (it took 8 years) to get this movie made. It’s got its weaknesses but I liked its spirit… and the fact that it does feel like a true Queensland film. It’s out next week and I’ll shoot through a full review then.
Unmade Beds was a film shot in London which centres on two squatters (a guy and a girl) living in the same house in London. There were a lot of young people in the audience and I think many of them enjoyed it judging from their response. It was the first film that I’ve seen from Argentinean director Alexis Dos Santos and I look forward to seeing his future films.
Blessed on Friday night caught me off guard with Blessed, directed by Ana Kokkinos. I loved Head On but hated Kokkinos’s last film, The Book Of Revelation. I went in with a very pessimistic frame of mind but thought it was a strong, powerful film. A great film score, a great soundtrack and a great ending. With an ensemble cast, I look forward to telling you more when it’s released in September.
I’m not sure which film won the Audience Award at this year’s BIFF. I think they’re still tallying up the votes. I’ll provide the full top 10 next week.
Well that just about does it from me. I return to the regular movie world to see the truly awful G.I. Joe: The Rise Of The Cobra topping the box-office charts both here and the United States. What are people thinking? I don’t think I’ve seen worse special effects in a movie this year. Thankfully we’re only a few months away from award season and there’ll be some better movies on the way.